Category Archives: Cooking

Summer Delights

Yesterday was miserable!  My day started with dog and chicken chores in the rain, not a gentle summer shower, a torrential downpour.  I had moved Broody Girl to the auxiliary chicken run and chicken tractor the day before and had put her in the chicken tractor with some amusing effort the night before.  Her food was in there, but not her water.  She squawked unmercifully until well after dark.  Figuring she was better off in the tractor since it was raining, I attempted to put her water in with her, but she dove past me into the run in the rain so I just left the door to the tractor open.  Now I have heard that turkey’s are stupid enough to drown in the rain.  That may be an old mountain tale, but Broody Girl was stupid enough to stand out in the pouring rain nearly all day instead of going back inside the tractor.  Last night I felt sorry for her and returned her to the coop, very wet and very agitated.

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The first thing she did was go to the nesting box and I ran her off.  She is showing me her wet displeasure.  This morning she exited the coop with the others and has stayed outside.  Yay!

Once those chores were done, I spent 90 minutes in the dentist chair getting a temporary crown on the tooth I broke 7 weeks ago when I went to Northern Virginia to pick up Grandson #1 for the summer.  As soon as I got home from that, the dentist did a build up so the tooth wouldn’t break anymore until he could see me for the crown prep.  This is not a fun time.  It is my 6th crown. 

As we were headed home, still in the pouring rain, we picked up the power washer as scheduled and in spite of the rain, our neighbor with my help cleared the covered front porch and open back deck of plants and furniture and he power washed both.  He was soaked from the effort and the rain and I was also from helping to move furniture and the hose from front to back.

Today is still overcast and has rained off and on, but not like yesterday.  The weather broke enough after we returned the power washer for me to do some harvest.  It is definitely that time of year. 

The two trips out to the garden resulted in a huge bowl of mostly hot peppers and another of tomatillos.  A few tomatoes are getting picked each day and a few lemon cukes.  The counter full of goodies encouraged me to haul out the water bath canner, a box of jars, and the other necessaries to put some of it away for the winter.

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The cayennes were strung to dry, the habaneros and a couple pounds of tomatillos were made into another batch of the I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX hot sauce (son said it was wonderful), the jalapenos pickled for hubby, the rest of the tomatillos canned in quarters and the lemon cukes pickled in a dill brine.  

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One afternoon’s canning session cooling on the counter.  A good addition to the goodies accumulating on the shelves for winter consumption.  As I’m a rather adventurous cook at this age, the XXX hot sauce must be documented so I can duplicate it next year.  My basic idea came from a visit to Mexico where the woman house staff made a salsa for us from Jalapenos, tomato, onion and garlic.  That one is good too.

I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX Hot Sauce

a dozen or so medium Habanero peppers

2 lbs (16-20) tomatillos

1 medium onion

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp pickling salt

1/2 c fresh of 2 Tbs dried cilantro

In a heavy non reactive pot, heat a couple of Tbs of Olive oil and saute the onion, chopped coarsely.  Quarter the habaneros with seeds (gloves are advised), peel and chop the garlic, remove the papery husk, wash and quarter the tomatillos.  In a blender, place the peppers, garlic, tomatillos, sauteed onion, lemon juice and salt and blend until fairly smooth.  Pour back into the heavy pot, add the cilantro and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.  If you are going to can this for shelf stability, it should be water bath canned for 20 minutes in pint or cup jars.  It will keep for months in the refrigerator if just packed in hot jars and lids with bands applied.

I do love this time of year.  Enjoying the spoils of our garden and the labor of putting is away for winter enjoyment.  Soon I will be canning tomatoes and tomato sauce nearly every day, but it will be so good later.

Life is an adventure!

Salvage

Each evening as I harvested the day’s produce and eggs, bringing in a half to a full cup of raspberries, I got more frustrated with the results of my batch of jam.  The new berries were put in a wide mouthed pint jar and frozen, new ones added each night.  The original batch so sweet and so gummy that it didn’t even work well in a smoothie without melting it first.  Today’s harvest of berries filled the jar plus a half a cup or so.  After some research from various cookbooks, homesteading books, and the internet, I decided to see if I could salvage the batch.  Again, down came the pots, the jars and lids.   The original 6 jars were warmed slightly to thin the sickly sweet goo.  The new fresh and frozen berries crushed in the bottom of the jam making pot with the potato masher.   Once they were beginning to cook, the first batch was added back to the pot with a quarter cup of water and a good splash of lemon juice and cooked til a gel test on a spoon showed a product that jelled but didn’t clump.  The re-canning in clean jars with new lids has been done.  The now 7 jars have all given the satisfying pop as they cool, so they are all sealed.  The new process was less frothy looking and the foam easier to skim, so the jars are a pretty ruby color throughout.  After they cool and I can do a tip test, I will see if I have 7 jars of jam or 7 cups of raspberry syrup.  Hopefully, when I open one, I will have a jam that is spreadable.  It tasted better when I checked it.  When my peach jam didn’t jell (my fault for using old pectin), I bought liquid pectin and it seems to give a thicker consistency jam which I don’t like.

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If any of my readers out there have jam recipes for low sugar (not artificial sweetener, I can’t use that stuff), or have found a good source of recipes for low sugar jams, I would love to have it.  It is counter intuitive to  me that most jam recipes call for sugar equal to or more than the amount of fruit.  That takes a healthy product and makes it unhealthy.

 

It begins

I love this time of year.  The garden is producing, giving us goodness for dinner and extra to put away for the winter.  Today, the bulk of the peas were harvested.  Two hours of shelling, a meal enjoyed with some and after dinner, blanching, chilling, and freezing.  I would like to have at least twice what was harvested put away, but at least there are 10 meals worth of fresh frozen peas out of our garden to enjoy when the cold winds blow and the snows fall.

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I opened one of the jars of raspberry jam and I am so disappointed.  The jam is too sweet and somewhat gummy.  Hopefully, I will be able to harvest another quart or so and can try again using a low sugar recipe and get a product that I am happier with.  The jars I have can be used in smoothies or stirred into oatmeal, but there is no way I would spread it on homemade bread or biscuits.

I am lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Suds and Sweets

Nope, not beer, though I have been known to make it too.  I realized that my homecrafted soap was nearly gone and as it takes 3 to 4 weeks to cure, I knew that I was going to have to get brave and make a batch or two on my own without my mentor’s help.  I have made two batches in her kitchen and only one here alone.  I have been procrastinating but realized that if I didn’t get over my reluctance and accept that I am still a novice and it might not be perfect, we were going to run out.  Summer is not a good time to run out of soap.  Sure, I could go to the grocery or the Farmers’ Market and buy some, but that goes against my nature.

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Yesterday, the soap making box was hauled out.  I quickly realized that I didn’t have the exact oils that the recipe I selected called for, but know that you can substitute some.  I quickly forgot rule #1, that in soap making, everything is weighed and I measured out the water for the lye mix in liquid ounces.  I measured the oils by weight though.  The recipe that I selected only filled my good mold about halfway, but I covered it, wrapped it in old towels and put it aside to saponify.  Today, when I pulled it out, it was a bit softer than the soap I made with my mentor, but the 6 bars are curing for use in a month.  Since the recipe only made 6 bars, I resupplied on the oils that I was missing yesterday so that I wouldn’t substitute and followed a new recipe to the letter.  When I added the essential oils to scent it, the soap seized and it is crammed and packed in the molds, covered to saponify.  It won’t be pretty, but it will be soap.

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Batch one curing.

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Batch two about to go under cover to saponify.

Today’s raspberry harvest brought me up to the 4 cups I needed to make jam.  Mind you, I don’t need any more jam, still having blueberry and blackberry left from last year, peach that I made a week ago, but I grew these raspberries and I want to savor them all winter.  So down came the pots and jars, the berries mashed, the sugar added and jam making round two for the season begun.

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Jam cooking while the jars heat beside it.

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Six one cup jars ready to for canning.

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Six jars cooling on the counter, as I listen to the satisfying pop as they cool and seal.

The rest of this year’s harvest of raspberries can be eaten as I pick, put in yogurt, and frozen for treats during the winter.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

Olio – June 18, 2014

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

Pet peeves of the day;

  • the trend of semi fast food restaurants to shout out across the dining area “Welcome to …” each time a patron enters any door of the establishment.  Do they really think that is appealing and welcoming?
  • also in a semi fast food restaurant or even a real restaurant for an employee to walk up to your table and grab the tray/plate before asking if you are finished with it and say, “May I take your …”  One literally tried to take the tray with my husband’s fries on it today while he was still eating them.
  • along the same vein, to be in an establishment and have not only your own server ask how your meal is, but anyone else that works there.  We have been asked at one steak place we patronize as many as 4 or 5 times by that many different people about how our meal/visit was while we are still seated and eating.  Let us enjoy our food in peace.

Today was resupply all the critters feed.  We managed to run out of dog food, cat food, chicken layer and chick starter grower all at the same time.  That was a car full.

On our way home, we stopped at a local greenhouse and bought 4 new Day-lily plants, different from the two that I have and also bought 3 more pepper plants as some of my heirloom starts didn’t grow once put in the garden.  Of course that mean garden work when we got home and it is HOT, HOT, and humid out there today.  Two of the Day-lily plants went in the perennial bed in the front of the house.  The garage wall bed had gotten grossly overgrown with grape iris, the purple ones that smell like grape Kool-aid.

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That is one of 4 huge clusters when they were blooming.  They haven’t been thinned in a few years, they were overrunning the English Daisies, and the bed had gotten weedy as well.  I dug them all out!  I hate to throw them away, but there are too many to replant.  I am going to load them in the tractor bucket and dump them where we don’t mow.  I bet some of them will come up next year and bloom there.  A few of them were moved to a bed by the deck.  The rest of the bed now has the other two Day-lily plants, two lavender plants, some English Daisies, a yellow poppy, three clusters of Dutch Iris plants that I divided from the deck area and on the opposite side of the walkway out of the garage side door, the Bronze fennel.  The bed is weeded, watered, and mulched with spoiled hay until I can get some more shredded mulch to apply to the bed.

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It looks sparse now, but will fill in quickly and have more variety.

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The haying is not going as quickly as we had hoped.  Jeff is trying to do too much at the same time.  They tettered the upper fields yesterday then came back and raked it into rows for baling, but the first bale was too green so they left it to mow the lower field and ran out of fuel. This afternoon the have turned the hay and

hopefully will get it baled this evening as we are due for rain for a few days.

The first batch of mustard is so good, there are 3 batches fermenting now to share. Two are Bavarian style and one is a repeat of the horseradish recipe.
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I think I am going to have to buy some sausages to grill soon.

Raspberries are ripening.  Tonight I harvested about a cup of them and resisted eating them as I picked.  They went into the freezer.  As soon as I have a quart, there will be a raspberry jam making session.

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Life is good on our mountain farm.

Let Us Preserve

Tis the season to start putting by for the long cold, unproductive months of winter.  We have cousins in Georgia and he has a son in college in Pennsylvania.  We are slightly more than half way in between for them and love to have them for the overnight visit as they drive up and back.  Yesterday afternoon they arrived bearing gifts of fresh Georgia peaches, pecans, and a loaf of a wonderful Artisan bread.  Some of the peaches are at a stage of ripeness where we can enjoy them fresh out of hand or as breakfast fruit, some needed quick attention.  Since our peach trees still are young and not really producing fruit, they are a treasure to enjoy.

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This morning they left to complete their trip north with a southbound return tomorrow and another night with us, so I pulled out the jam making supplies and set to work peeling, deseeding, chopping, measuring and making a batch of peach jam.  That is one jam I have never made before and not wanting to make too much, I first bought the ebook, The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.  As I started collecting jars, I realized that most of my jelly jars have been given away full of jams and jellies and my stock was low.  The recipe said it made 6 cups, I had 5 1/2 cups worth of smaller jars, but figured that any surplus would go in a jar in the refrigerator to be used first.

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Enough made to get us through the winter and still send a couple of jars home with them Sunday morning.  My taste test is that it is sweeter than the berry, plum and pomegranate jams I have made in the past, but a bit on toast or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal will be nice.   The black cherry tree at the top of our road is ripe and my raspberries are ripening enough to sample a couple when in the garden, but if I’m going to do anything with them, I need more jam jars.

Jim’s comment when he came through the kitchen was that I sure was industrious.  I smiled and said it kept me out of trouble.

I love this time of year with new good things to eat appearing nearly daily from the garden or in this case, as a gift.

Next up is to try one or all three of the fermented mustard recipes from the current issue of taproot Issue 10::Seed magazine.  But wait, I don’t have jars!

 

Creative in the kitchen

This morning was thick and gray and so was my mood.  I don’t know why, but I just lacked all motivation to do anything or make any decisions.  I didn’t want to decide even on breakfast.  Usually, I cook eggs or make oatmeal or grits.  Even making coffee was a challenge.  Rummaging around looking for something easy, I found a bit of plain yogurt that was nearing its expiry date, some strawberries that we bought on Saturday at the Farmers Market that looked like they wouldn’t last much longer, some bananas that are getting a bit ripe.  Not wanting to throw any of this out, a smoothie seemed the solution.  To the banana, strawberries, and yogurt, I added a tablespoon of peanut butter for protein, a half tablespoon each of Chia seed and ground flax seed for omegas and fiber and whirred it up in the magic bullet.

A quick nutritious breakfast.  What is your favorite or most creative smoothie?

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Food and Fun

Today was the Spunster, my spinning group’s annual Spin In and Potluck located in a beautiful valley in our mountains at the home of our delightful hostess and host.  We get to sit around and spin on the lovely porches, socialize, and eat and our significant others are encouraged to participate with us for this event.  An afternoon of crafting, walking the woods, touring their business, Strauch Fiber Equipment (http://www.strauchfiber.com/) and enjoying the delicious food contributions.

Today, I contributed two salad favorites.

Ranch Pasta & Potato Salad

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  • 6 small Red Potatoes with skins on cubed 1/2″
  • 6 oz spiral pasta (approx 2 c) {Gluten free is fine}
  • 1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 c chopped green onion, bulb and stem
  • 8 slices bacon cooked crisp and chopped
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/2 c Ranch dressing (I use the light version)

Boil the potatoes for 3-4 minutes, add pasta and cook about 9 minutes til pasta is soft cooked (not al dente). Rinse with cold water and drain well.  Toss with chopped vegetables.  Blend dressing and toss into salad with bacon.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

This makes about 8-9 cups of salad.  I got this recipe from my daughter, who got it from a friend, who got it from ????  I have seen variations of it on the internet, so I don’t know where to give credit.

My other contribution was:

Three Bean Salad

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I think this one came off a can of beans many years ago, maybe…

  • 1 each 15 oz can of Red Kidney, Cannelini, and Garbanzo beans
  • 3 c chopped vegetables ( I use the other half of the red bell pepper, carrot, onion)
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1/3 c wine vinegar or Apple cider vinegar
  • 2 finely minced gloves of garlic
  • 1/2-1 tsp Italian Seasoning (I don’t buy mixed seasoning, so I use basil, oregano, thyme, parsley)
  • 2 Tbs Parmesan cheese

Drain beans and combine with chopped vegetables.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Blend Olive oil, vinegar and herbs well in blender or with wand blender and pour over bean mixture.  Stir and chill several hours.

This makes about 7 cups of salad.

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There was a lot of yarn spun, some knitting done, much eating, socializing and a beer or two consumed.  It was a delightful afternoon with a wonderful group of friends.

Kitchen mishaps

We have all had them, right?  The burned toast or worse, empty pan on the hot burner.  If you own a microwave, you learn that bags must be pierced with a hole to release steam, lids must be loosened.  But sometimes our mind wanders or is on other “more important” issues and we have a kitchen mishaps.  I started my day with one, triggering this post.

A decade or so ago, I was still working and had to be at work by 7 a.m., yes, I know that is early and I never wanted to eat that early, so I began a routine of taking something that could be warmed in the microwave for my breakfast.  Usually that was a pair of boiled eggs and a chunk of cheese.  The eggs were chopped and warmed slightly as I don’t care for them cold from the fridge.  Last night I wanted a hard cooked egg with our cold Mediterranean supper and salad.  Since I raise chickens for eggs, the eggs are fresh and don’t peel well when boiled, but do beautifully when steamed, but it takes much longer to cook them that way and since I set up the steamer, I decided to cook a couple extra for breakfast.  This morning, without thinking, I popped the bowl with two peeled hard cooked eggs in the microwave for less than a minute.  I forgot to cut them in half first and was busy cutting cheese when POW, one egg all over the inside of the microwave.  Quickly I turned it off, removed the bowl and began the cleanup so it wouldn’t harden, leaving the second egg in the bowl on the counter.  Once the microwave was cleaned, I turned to chop the what should be the now cooled second egg and as soon as I cut into it, it too exploded, not quite as bad, leaving most of it still in the bowl.  The kitchen is cleaned up and I will remember next time to cut the eggs in half or prechop and only warm for 30 seconds.

This brought back memories of other kitchen mishaps.  The time I was making a hot salsa that I had learned about by watching the housekeeper/cook when visiting Mexico a decade ago.  It requires that the hot ingredients be placed in a blender and blended, adding a few other ingredients later.  I forgot to put the lid on the blender and had hot salsa on the walls, floor and ceiling of the kitchen.

Or the time I went to pour boiling water from the tea kettle over my tea in a mug not realizing the water had been boiling longer than I thought and it perked and spewed out all over my Color Nook, ruining it.
What is you most disastrous kitchen mishap?
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Canning Time

Recently there have been a few evenings when I wanted a quick dinner only to realize that there was no more pasta sauce and the only broth was frozen.  Last summer was cool and rainy, good for the greens and beans, but not so good for the tomatoes, plus I had planted fewer of them as I was overwhelmed the prior summer.  Because the harvest was lighter and more sporadic, I blanched, peeled and froze the tomatoes in vacuum seal bags, instead of canning them into the usual pasta sauce, tomatoes with green chilies and plain tomatoes.  Periodically this winter, I have hauled out a few bags and made enough pasta sauce for a couple of dinners, freezing the extra.  I don’t like using the microwave, though we have one, so thawing sauce or broth requires foresight.

Today and tomorrow are beautiful early springlike days, highs in the 60s, sunny with the buds beginning to show on the lilacs and forsythia.  These are the days when Jim wants to get on his motorcycle and go for a ride.  His rides give me time to do crafts or household jobs.  I decided early today that I was going to take most of the remaining frozen tomatoes and make a big pot of sauce and can it so that dinner is just a few steps to the pantry, a box of pasta and in the time it takes to boil the water and heat the noodles, the sauce can be heated.

When we killed chickens last fall, we cut some into pieces and as we don’t have a cleaver, we deboned the breasts.  That left us with several carcasses with back meat and random other meat scraps on them.  They were bagged together and thrown in the freezer with the bagged and sealed birds and parts.  This seemed like a good day to take care of them too and to thaw the 2 quarts of turkey broth in the freezer and make pints of broth, also canned to have quickly available to cook rice or as the base for soup or potpie.

Late winter is not the usual time for canning around here, but the empty jars, lids and three large pots were hauled out.  Sauce cooked in one, broth simmering in the second and finally, several inches of water started to boiling in the pressure canner.

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The 10 pints of tomato sauce have finished canning, 9 pints of broth are building pressure and as soon as the pressure is down enough to open the canner, the last 3 pints of broth will go into the canner for processing.

As a bonus, the carcasses yielded 11 ounces of cooked chicken to add to soup or a casserole.  This will make meal prep easier for the remainder of winter and spring until the garden starts giving us fresh goodness to enjoy.  It will also let me consolidate the remaining frozen produce and chickens into the refrigerator freezer to let the chest freezer defrost and get a good cleaning before we have more table birds and produce to add to it.

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Not a bad day’s work.

Life is always an adventure on our mountain farm.